Numbers add up to positive news

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Editorial: June 6, 2013

ISSUE: Numbers indicate local advancement
OUR VIEW: Time to build on successes

When evaluating success, it’s important to find ways to quantify achievement.

In business, we count the dollars. In sports, we keep track of the score. Numbers matter but not all tallies are as obvious.

When evaluating communities and elusive quality-of-life concepts, the measurement tools vary. But by most accounts, Hardin County is advancing and residents of the region are becoming the envy of Kentucky.

As the U.S. Army’s base realignment ended and the full economic impact of the Human Resources Command became known, the local Metropolitan Statistical Area shot to the No. 1 position in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s assessment of GDP growth in 2010. The same assessment for 2011 revealed another spike and an 11th-place national rank.

More recently, three new evaluations reveal numerical gains that continue to affirm a bright outlook for local business, industry and residents as a whole.

First up, there are more of us. Healthy communities attract residential growth and the U.S. Census’ 2012 estimates show growth in Hardin County, moving from 105,543 on the official 2010 count to an estimated 107,025 in the most recent adjusted estimate.

Elizabethtown’s population increased by 804 residents since the 2010 census, according to the latest totals, bringing the head count to 29,335. That pushed E’town past Henderson into the state’s Top 10 cities in terms of population.

Equally impressive were the growth rates in Radcliff and Vine Grove. Moving from 21,688 to 23,036 according to the 2012 estimate, Radcliff’s population climbed 6.2 percent compared to Elizabethtown’s rate of 2.8 percent. Radcliff ranks as the 17th largest city in Kentucky.

Vine Grove is No. 77 out of more than 400 incorporated cities in the state, showing an estimated increase from 4,520 to 5,227 or 15.6 percent. Considered small by some, Vine Grove is home to more people than manyof rural Kentucky’s county seat communities.

Changes in traffic patterns caused another census-related change within the Metropolitan Statistical Area, a tool used to compare and evaluate regional economies that goes beyond artificial municipal boundaries. An analysis of commuter traffic and shopping patterns led to Meade County being extracted from the Louisville Metro statistics and added to the Elizabethtown MSA, which already accounted for all of Hardin and LaRue counties.

That new three-county MSA accounts for 150,413 people ranking it 271st nationally, right between the Wichita Falls, Texas, and Jefferson City, Mo., MSAs. More importantly than the standings, it will influence federal funding.

“It should increase the amount of funding coming to the MSA based on the sheer number of the population,” said Mike Skaggs, a transportation planner with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District.

Also by exceeding the 150,000 threshold, this region will meet a minimum size that’s important in the early evaluation process used by many businesses and industries when considering new locations for expansion.

These days, research for site selection begins with internet inquiries and general demographic assessments. Costly site visits don’t occur unless the community under consideration exceeds some basic indicators. In the past that has meant Elizabethtown and Radcliff were overlooked before any one here realized they might be under consideration.

It’s hard to sell yourself to someone who won’t even look your way.

Thirdly, others are noticing and helping to herald this area’s impact.

Area Development Magazine, a publication covering corporate site selection and relocation, has named the Elizabethtown MSA a leading location for 2013 for economic and work force growth for the second consecutive year. This area ranked 23rd overall and was ninth among small cities, according to the national trade publication.

It all adds up to positive economic news and a reason to be optimistic about job development, business growth and new opportunities locally.

An unfortunate side effect of all this good news can be complacency. The time for this community and its leaders to push forward is when the optimism is at its highest.

Look at it like a card game: The time to stand pat is not when you have the best hand.

Hardin County is sitting on a great series of reports. It has the attention of the state. Things are going well and it’s time now to push ourselves to another level.

Don’t be content. Go all in.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.